The Blues have beaten the Panthers six straight times since 2009-2010, and have shut out the Panthers six times at Scottrade in that span. Last year, the Blues beat the Panthers twice, 4-2 at home, and 2-1 in overtime in Sunrise. Since the Panthers re-acquired Roberto Luongo, it seems like the wins against the Panthers are getting tougher on the Blues.
That's not all on Lou, though. The Panthers are a good, young team led by players such as Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad. They are also led by someone who has been playing NHL hockey longer than many members of the team have been alive: Jaromir Jagr.
The Ageless Wonder has eight goals and ten assists so far this season, leading the team in both goals and points. One more point tonight brings Jagr into a tie with Marcel Dionne for fourth all-time on the points list.
Jake Allen will get his sixth straight start tonight. Allen has had a stellar season, but he's never played the Florida Panthers in his career. Brian Elliott and Martin Brodeur both got starts against Florida last season. Allen has a teeny 2.03 GAA, so the Panthers' offense may struggle against the Blues tonight. It won't help much that their 9th ranked powerplay relies on home play; they've scored just three times in their last 30 chances on the road. That doesn't mean that the Panthers are clawless, though. They stomped the Central Division leading Dallas Stars 6-2 on October 24th, and hung up five on the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 14th. They've averaged two goals a game in the six games since then; it probably isn't best for the Blues to write them off based on the Panther's past two weeks.
The Blues right now are making it through on the power of positive thought. No clue how Ken HItchcock measures that, or if he subscribes to an app service for regular updates on locker room attitude. As he said to Jeremy Rutherford:
"I think at this stage last year, we were structurally sounder than we are this year, but this year has been a lot about spirit, desire, all those intangibles that there’s no cookbook for," Hitchcock said. "Sometimes you either have it in your group or you don’t. We’re trying to get the team with a little bit more structure, a little bit more continuity on the ice. But you’ve got to love the spirit that we play with."
Whatever works. If rooting for the vets on the roster is getting you through the season with a similar record as last season, go for it.
Tonight the Florida Panthers won't be going through some growing pains. Tonight will be a Panthers team seeking two more points toward a playoff spot in the hotly contested East. Be as positive as you want to be, but focusing on the fundamentals will help the Blues go a long way.